Paul Temme has a reason to end gun violence: In just four months he witnessed two shootings in the Kansas City area.
Temme saw the shooting at the Overland Park Jewish Community Center in April. After watching the attacker shoot two people, Temme chased after him. The shooter then fired at him, but missed.
“It’s difficult, very difficult,” Temme said. “No one should have to witness that.”
Before that, Temme, who is from Prairie Village, was at a dance studio in Mission for a New Year’s Eve party when someone shot out plate glass windows in the front of the building.
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“For the first time in my life, in the matter of a few months, I was involved in two shootings,” he said.
The two incidents sparked Temme’s interest in local advocacy against gun violence. He said the amount of community support that followed the Overland Park shooting showed him that there is support for ending gun violence, so he looked for a way to get involved. Now Temme is a founding member of a new advocacy group that hopes to curb violence in the area.
The northeast Kansas chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence aims to end gun violence through education and better background checks, lead member Loren Stanton said. According to the organization’s website, the Brady Campaign is the nation’s largest non-partisan, grassroots organization promoting and end to gun violence.
This is the first chapter of its kind in Kansas, but there are about 90 chapters spread around the country. The local group has just seven members, but Stanton is hopeful interest will grow.
“The earlier people get involved, the more impact they can have on what we do tackle,” he said.
The local Brady Campaign chapter has set two main goals, which Stanton said are the primary goals of the national organization. First, the Brady Campaign will work toward universal background checks for gun buyers in Kansas. Currently background checks are required only when purchasing guns from a dealer, meaning individual sales and sales at gun shows are exempt. Stanton said this opens the door for felons, those with a history of mental illness and others to buy weapons. Universal background checks would reduce gun violence without infringing on anyone’s rights, he said.
“It really does stop bad things from happening,” Stanton said.
The other key goal of the Brady Campaign is education through the Asking Saves Kids, or ASK, program. Stanton said the program is designed to be a nonpolitical tool to educate parents about how to properly talk about guns and gun safety. The program also encourages parents to talk to other parents about guns in the home before they allow their children to visit those homes.
As the group gains members, Stanton said the hope is to get involved in legislative issues by endorsing candidates who support “common sense” gun laws. Of particular concern to the group in Kansas is HB 2578, which prohibits cities from banning open-carry weapons in municipal buildings and parks effective July 1.
“Open-carry does not equate to safer neighborhoods,” Stanton said.
The Brady Campaign is not the only violence prevention group in the metro area. The Missouri & Kansas Grandmothers Against Gun Violence launched in September and has about 230 members. Susan Blaney, a founding member of the group and member of the Brady Campaign, said the group’s primary focus is education.
Blaney said she hopes the two groups can work together to end violence in Kansas City.
“I’m just sick of it,” she said. “It’s scary.”
Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence: firstname.lastname@example.org
Missouri & Kansas Grandmothers Against Gun Violence: